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Kent's Earthworks Park to get much-needed facelift, thanks to grant

City of Kent Visual Arts Coordinator Cheryl dos Remédios and Park Project Manager Brian Levenhagen pose with Earthworks Park
City of Kent Visual Arts Coordinator Cheryl dos Remédios and Park Project Manager Brian Levenhagen pose with Earthworks Park's split rings behind them June 17. The split rings will be restored with $70,000 grant awarded for the internationally acclaimed park.
— image credit: Charles Cortes, Kent Reporter

Cheryl dos Remédios pointed to where the water and rocks should be as she stopped the afternoon of June 17 between the sculpted split-ring berms at Mill Creek Canyon Earthworks Park on the eastern edge of downtown Kent.

The original rock-lined channel, designed by acclaimed landscape artist Herbert Bayer to run between the split-ring berms, has disappeared. The tall, thick invasive reed canary grass overgrew the channel.

"There should be a water element," said dos Remédios, city of Kent visual arts coordinator. "And it's a rock-lined channel."

But the rocks have sunk since the park opened in 1982. Grass has covered the water and the rocks.

City crews, however, plan to restore the channel and split-ring berms to their original condition over the next two years, thanks to a $70,000 grant the city received June 15 from American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

"This is an aging park that needs a facelift," said Brian Levenhagen, parks project manager, as he looked at the overgrown channel partway into the park and east of the main parking lot. "The park is 28 years old and showing signs of wear and tear. We will be able to restore some of the elements to what they originally looked like."

The park, at 742 E. Titus St., is internationally recognized as a masterpiece of modernist art and functions as a stormwater-detention dam, as well as a public space.

The King County Landmark Commission designated the 2 1/2-acre earthworks portion of the 107-acre park as a historic landmark in 2008. The landmarks commission found the property to be of exceptional significance because of the natural artwork and waived its criteria that a landmark must be at least 40 years old.

That gave park officials the opportunity to apply for the $70,000 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Twenty-five historic and culturally significant sites in the Seattle-Puget Sound area received a total of $1 million in grants for historic preservation projects.

Earthworks Park was one of nine historic sites chosen for grants of $50,000 or more by an advisory committee of civic and preservation leaders from the region. The committee based its selections on public voting results and community support for the project, the preservation needs of the site, historic significance, project completion ability, and the role the site plays in the community.

"It was great to have the whole community participate," dos Remédios said about the online voting by city residents for Earthworks Park. "Community participation was one of the key parts."

Prior to restoring the channel between the split-ring berms, city crews plan to begin work later this summer to restore the cone and double-ring pond near the front of the park.

The city received a $13,850 grant last year from 4Culture, a King County cultural services agency, to restore the cone and double-ring pond elements of the park to the original design by Bayer, the late Austrian painter, graphic artist and architect.

Bayer, considered a master of the Bauhaus art movement (a German art style combining the crafts and fine arts) had the landscape sculpted to handle flooding and erosion and to detain stormwater. He designed a series of sculpted spaces for the park to mix in circles, lines and berms that gives the park a distinct look.

For more information about Earthworks Park, go to www.ci.kent.wa.us/arts.

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